Neil’s mushroom hunters

Love Neil Gaiman and love collaborations with his wife even more.


Which call?

Listened to the most recent episode of Making Sense on the way into work today. I continue to be fascinated with the guests that Sam Harris finds.

A few things that stuck with me:

  • The connection between poetry and good thinking. I am not an expert in poetry, but I do find myself more attracted to it over the last few years, purchasing and browsing through TS Elliot and Wendell Berry collections over the past few years. Part of my interest is that it seems to act for me as a mental reset. When I need to reset on something, I can switch to some good poetry and get the reset I need.
  • The idea that your identity is not made up of your beliefs, but actually the attention you pay to those others than you. I think there is a lot to unpack here, but this idea alone has me looking to add David Whyte’s writing. I stopped by my favorite local bookstore on the way home to order a copy of The Three Marriages. Yes I could have gotten it tomorrow from Amazon, but that entirely misses the point.
  • The “conversational” nature of reality. The idea that whatever you have in mind for the world will never be fully realized. Nor will whatever the world has in mind for you will be completely realized. What will be realized is the mediation (or a frontier) between the two, just like a conversation.
  • The poem he explains and then reads, The Bell and the Blackbird. The story behind the poem with both the bell AND the call of the blackbird BOTH being the most beautiful sound the monk ever heard on the base level is a wonderful allegory on the power of non-dualism, or more simply put the value of avoiding either / or thinking. At a deeper level, when coupled with the story he tells about the meaning of both being the most beautiful sounds he has heard, the idea that you have to choose, but at the same time have no choice ;-), between practicing your skills and getting better and living out your skills in the world and trying to make things happen really spoke to me. Both choices take courage. Both choices mean leaving the other aside for at least a while. Both lead to more beauty in the world.

Which call did you heed today?



Moving to Lightsail is already paying dividends.

One of the things on my wish list for a while now has been to add a SSL cert to my blog. This is a little for the geek factor / knowing how it works, but also since I know search engines give some extra juice to sites with SSL. Since I am not going to post updates to Facebook or Twitter I need all the discovery mechanisms I can get.

On GoDaddy it always seems either (a) too expensive or (b) to convoluted. Following this simple tutorial I was able to get a free cert setup and installed from Let’s Encrypt, a cool project from the EFF. I have to renew it every 90 days, but that’s only a minor hassle for free.


A little more memory

After deactivating all plugins and finding the log files, I determined that the nano instance of Lightsail is just too small to run the Bitnami WordPress image on. I just upgraded to the next largest size that has 1GB of RAM so we’ll see if that solves the database connection / crash errors that have kept this site down for most of the last few weeks.

This will bump my monthly costs from $3.50 to $5 a month, which is still half of what I was paying for GoDaddy hosting. It’s true that I had a few sites running there and can only reasonably expect to run this one on this plan. But those other sites are dormant for now, so I can live with that.

In addition to saving money, I wanted to learn a bit about the amazon cloud, which I have. I also wanted the monthly billing to remind me to post here now and again. I have let this site sit relatively still for a long time as I have focused on other things. My hope is that I can use this site as my social media outlet and much the same way that I am encouraged to read “real” news by subscribing to print periodicals, actually paying for my social media outlet (not to mention having it directly associated to my name) will change how I think and how I behave compared to using the “free” platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Of course, not as many people will see it here…something I have accepted.


The wonder of it all

I was listening to the most recent episode of The Portal podcast today. The Portal is a project by Eric Weinstein who works for Peter Thiel and is the brother of Bret Weinstein of Evergreen College fame (at least until I heard this podcast…).

I am not sure I get what Eric is trying to do with the Portal, but I like that he is doing it. The first 20 minutes or so of this podcast is almost unlistenable. It gets exponentially better from there. Bret and Eric tell the story together of how Bret?s amazing ideas about evolutionary biology and the implications to the modern pharmaceutical industrial complex.

Here?s what I think I learned: there is a sequence of genes at the end of chromosomes that don?t code for amino acids called telomeres. In cells that reproduce by mitosis (soma, not germ) these telomeres get shorter acting as a sort of countdown that eventually stops and cells don?t reproduce anymore. This is an adaptive ?choice? by cells since the longer they are around, the longer they can get damaged by radiation or other environmental factors. So by being ?born? with a reproduction limit cells limit the chances that they will reproduce abnormally, i.e. as cancer. As Eric puts at one point, our cells die as a way to avoid death. This life thing really is a one way ticket, all the way down to the cellular level. There?s a lot more in the podcast, including the official name for all of this – antagonistic pleiotropy…which is what causes senescence…isn?t science great! – including the big payoff: the result of this fact of evolution when combined with some market forces that drove a breeding protocol at the single source of all lab mice in the US which results in them having extraordinarily long telomeres is that The lab rats we used for all of our drug testing are basically indestructible and cancer proof.

A few other things I learned:

  • The natural mechanisms here are amazing to me. The way the world has worked things out is simply something amazing to behold…even if I don?t completely comprehend it. Eric talks about how looking at some mathematical structures is analogous to a religion experience for him. This is close for me. If I had to do it all over again (which I least twice more) I would study evolutionary theory. It simply fascinates me…although I don?t even know really what ?it? is.
  • The minds that develop and explore these ideas are similarly amazing to me. I think I understand the mathematical mind as well as the developer mind. But the evolutionary theorist mind is a mystery to me.
  • The DISC that Eric has been railing on since his project started might just be real.
  • My enneagram type is right on in the description of loving to find new / novel information and share it with other people…I can?t get enough of this and immediately was thinking about all the people I could talk to about it that would find it as fascinating as I did
  • I might just also be on the spectrum…or at least a fan of those who are.

Pardon the Interuption

Update: well that was a brief respite. Seem to be having some database connection errors so back to trying to figure this out.

The blog has been a bit wonky for the last few weeks since I moved to Amazon. I tried out the basic components and seemed to have some success, but saw what the billing was going to be, so I decided to move to Lightsail, a little simpler service to snag the $3.50 a month deal.

I think things are stable now, although some older posts may still be a bit wonky.

No promises per se, but getting the itch to write publicly more recently, so perhaps that will play out here.


Tech Upgrades across the board

I have made a number of tech upgrades in the last month or so.

  • I happened to wander into a Apple store the day the new MacBook Pro 16″ launched…and walked home with one. I ended up getting far more machine than I need (the upgraded standard model with the core i9, 16 GB of Ram and a TB SSD), but it replaced a 2008 Core 2 Duo that I had been using for 10+ years. If this one matches the service of the one it replaced I think I will get my money’s worth.
  • I moved this blog from GoDaddy to Amazon. This had been in the back of my mind for a while, but my auto billing for hosting failed since I had neglected to update the CC I had on file, so it prompted me to make the switch over the long Thanksgiving day weekend. Part of the reason I still maintain this blog is to give me an excuse to play around with tech and I really don’t have much recent “cloud” experience hence the move to AWS. I was paying about $160 a year for basic hosting at GoDaddy. My initial setup on AWS is with Route 53 for domain management and EC2 for hosting. I will see what my costs look like and may switch to Lightsail if that looks like a more cost effective option that will still let me learn some things.
  • I upgraded my home “server” from a 10+ year old repurposed Athlon II desktop machine running Ubuntu with a random assortment of disks to a purpose built FreeNAS system with 4x6TB WD Red NAS Drives in a RaidZ2 config giving me a total of ~11TB of redundant storage running in a 12 bay case that leaves some room for expansion in the future. I am still getting this up and running, but the plans are to move all current duties from my old server to this one: PLEX, Time Machine backup for the family’s Macs, Network share, Unifi Controller and ZoneMinder for the security cameras in the barn. Then I’ll get to playing around with other jails and plugins.

Photo dump from Foothills Trail Through Hike – Sep 15 – Sep 20 2019

I may or may not do a write up on the hike later on….but for now, here is a photo dump of the pics I took over a 6 day through hike of the Foothills trail in SC/NC. Highly recommended trail if you are looking into getting into backpacking.



We said goodbye to Sheriff today.  He seems to have been bitten by a brown recluse more than a month ago.  DeAnna gave him amazing care since then but he had been getting a little worse each day for the last week, so we made the call.  Who’d have thought something as small as a spider could take down something as grand as a horse?

Sheriff was our third horse, after Goliath and Levi.  He was nominally my daughter’s horse, but we all road him from time to time.  He was born on May 22, 2001.  He came to our farm on July 2, 2008.  He went on to greener pastures today, July  25,2019.
I’m writing this just a few hours after his suffering ended, and already I am forgetting things….so let me record a few things I want to always want to remember about Sheriff:

  • Sheriff was the Barbie Dream Horse. ?A dual registered Palomino / Quarter Horse with long blond main and tail.
  • Sheriff’s mane smelled like fresh cut grass, sweat and sunshine.
  • Sheriff always said hello when he saw someone coming into the barn or even when we drove by and he was in the field. ?Sometime a quiet nicker. ?Sometimes a loud nicker. ?He always said hello.
  • Sheriff had the softest feet. ?Not really, but anytime you would start to ride him, he would tip toe and make it seems like he was walking on hot coals. ?Smart horses always seem to have a way of getting out of work, and that was his.
  • Sheriff had a huge….well….you know. ?We got him already as a gelding, but I think the previous owners made that decision a little later than some, so he….developed.
  • Sheriff was probably the best trained horse we had or have. ?He had great gates, could switch on the fly and could push a cart (although we never tried that).
  • Sheriff looked amazing in Teal.

Thank you Sheriff for just being you and for all the wonderful years you spent with us on our farm.  You were a great follower when Goliath and then Levi lead the heard and took the reigns when they both went on to greener pastures.  Lord knows what will happen know with Ike and Ranger ;-).  Give Goliath and Levi a hearty nicker and a good nip whrn you see them.
With Sheriff properly thanked and honored, I’d like to also document a bit of my internal experience in the last 24 hours.  On one hand this seems a bit repugnent – I’m still here to write this afterall.  But then again, I really only have my own experience to share.

  • And now there are two: Ike and Ranger. ?I will try to enjoy them each day. ?I will take the time to be greatful doing barn chores and being with them. ?I might even try to saddle one up and go for a ride. ?As time passes, I also know that things will fall back into routine and I will start to take them (and lot’s of other things) for granted.
  • I hate feeling this way. ?I don’t have the words to describe it, but I know I don’t like it. Strangely, at the same time, I relish it. I hate that I know it will end and things will go back to “normal”. ?I love this break from the normal. ?This reminder that each moment is precious. ?This opportunity to be greatful for what has been, what will be, but most of all what is right now. ?Is it possible to be this way all the time and function? ?I can’t see how, but maybe that’s what I need to work on.
  • I love our farm and the experiences we have had here. ?At the same time there are lots of changes – kids becoming adults. ?Furry friends passing on. ?I’m not rushing into what’s next – but I really want to move on. ?I’m trying to be patient and sit in this “in between” space and just try to notice and pay attention. ?The second half is going to be amazing…but it seems that I have to watch the halftime show a bit longer.

That’s all for now.  As I’ve been journaling more, this blog has become used less and less.  It might just go away one day.  But I’ll enjoy it and use it as long as it’s here.


Makes me wonder…

What am I doing that is thwarting my own attempts?

Everything you?re trying to reach?by taking the long way round?you could have right now, this moment. If you?d only stop thwarting your own attempts. If you?d only let go of the past, entrust the future to Providence, and guide the present toward reverence and justice.

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations